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The Qualities of a Great RCM Facilitator

by Doug Plucknette

During the last International Maintenance Conference in Florida, a global reliability leader at a major company asked if I had a list of traits common among all good reliability-centered maintenance (RCM) facilitators. He also wanted to know the background experience a good facilitator would have and some qualities he should look for when selecting these people.

As I was about to tell him that I could e-mail a document I had created on how to select a good RCM facilitator, an interesting thought came to mind.

Are you really looking for someone to become a good facilitator or would you really like for him or her to be a great facilitator?

When it comes to facilitating a process or event like RCM, root cause analysis (RCA), or any other group problem-solving method, I have met hundreds of good facilitators in my life thus far, but only a handful of great ones. If I were thinking about investing the money to train an RCM facilitator, I would want to train a great one.

So, what is the difference between a good facilitator and a great one?

What type of background or experience should a great RCM facilitator have?

What qualities should you look for in selecting an RCM facilitator?

To me, the difference between good and great facilitators is as obvious as night and day. Great facilitators have a skill that allows them to lead a team of people through a thorough RCM analysis in a way that is non-threatening and, believe it or not, enjoyable.

While RCM can be a very painful process at times, great facilitators know how to keep the analysis on track; they stick to the process knowing where to add their own insight, experience and humor.

Great facilitators understand the importance of staying true to the RCM process by asking the right questions in the right order so the RCM team develops not only the list of failure modes for their asset, but also the resulting maintenance strategy intended to mitigate each failure. In doing so, the great RCM facilitator has assisted in delivering a product that the team will own.

Great facilitators have highly tuned listening skills. They have learned over time not only the importance of asking the right questions, but listening and often waiting for the team to discover what may have been clear to him or her for some time. They understand the extreme importance of every “ah-ha” the team uncovers and have learned the art of leading their team to each discovery rather than just pointing them out.

Great RCM facilitators do not tell RCM teams what they should do; instead, when needed, they share their knowledge and experiences and allow the team to make their own recommendations. They understand that patience and sound leadership have a reward that is returned in increased pace, understanding of the RCM process and ownership of the end product.

Great RCM facilitators seem to have the following background and experience:

  • They have worked in the trenches before as maintenance technicians or operators, or in lead or supervisory positions. They know the pressures of day-to-day business and the relationship between equipment reliability and success.
  • They have a proven ability to lead a team through a structured process to solve problems.
  • They have worked with or have a thorough understanding of predictive maintenance (PdM) technologies.
  • They have above average computer and typing skills.
  • They have shown the ability to be a proven leader or instructor.
  • In learning to instruct or facilitate, they honed their skills from many diverse instructors/mentors.

The qualities of great RCM facilitators include:

  1. They are patient.
  2. They have above average listening skills.
  3. They value teaching over telling.
  4. They understand different learning styles and try to use them all.
  5. They recognize the strengths and abilities of each team member.
  6. They lead by example through action and a positive attitude.
  7. They openly share their knowledge and experience.
  8. They have the proven ability to set and achieve goals.
  9. They are uniquely driven to continuously improve their own facilitation skills.
  10. They have an above average and appropriate sense of humor.

Well, there you have it. The same advice I have given to well over a hundred managers who were looking to train their employees as RCM facilitators. While we have been successful at training and mentoring hundreds of facilitators over the years, the difference between good and great starts with selection and is perfected through personal drive and experience. In the end, good facilitators have another skill to add to their resume. The great facilitators… they have found a new career!


part2Doug Plucknette is the worldwide RCM Discipline leader for GPAllied, creator of the RCM Blitz Methodology, author of the book Reliability Centered Maintenance using the RCM Blitz Method, and Co-Author of the book Clean, Green & Reliable. www.rcmblitz.com. Purchase at www.mro-zone.com

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